How to build a targeted mailing list - Envato Author guide

Originally published at: How to build a targeted mailing list

Daniel Futerman (aka AmigoProductions) is a Videohive author with 8 years of experience in video & motion graphics. He works from his home office, sets his own hours and does business with clients worldwide. In this series, he’ll be taking us through the pros and cons of social media marketing, and provide alternative actionable strategies to help increase your sales and revenue.

In the past couple of posts we’ve explored why email marketing is so much more effective than social media marketing. Now it’s time to see what it takes to build a list, and more importantly how to get highly targeted people to sign up to your list.

Note that rather than going into all the technical aspects of creating a list, I’ll focus mainly on sharing the ways I found to be effective at growing a list.

Baby steps

First thing you need if you’re serious about getting into email marketing, is a website. You need a place where your audience can find you and read whatever it is you plan to share. If you don’t yet have your own little space in the world wide web, it’s time to create one.

This is not only extremely important for your personal branding, but crucial if you want to get started with email marketing. Since I want to keep this post focused on email marketing, I’ll assume that you already have your own website or blog. If you don’t, I highly recommend doing the research and setting up your first website (here’s a good place to start).

Next, you’ll need to choose an email service provider.

What email services should you use?

I could go on and on about all the different email marketing services out there, but for the sake of time and simplicity I’ll say that I currently use Mailchimp (which is great for a multitude of reasons), but I have also experimented with Aweber and Campaign Monitor.

The main reason I love mailchimp is the simplicity, and user friendly interface. Plus, Mailchimp allows you to maintain a list of up to 2,000 subscribers for free, which is a huge advantage if you’re just getting started.

In the upcoming weeks I plan to spend time with MyMail which is a Wordpress plugin by @revaxarts, that offers a multitude of premium features for a one time cost of $40. Compare that to Mailchimp where you’d pay $40 each month for a list of over 2,600 subscribers, and now that’s what I call saving your money.

How does it work?

Before diving into the fun stuff, let’s get the very basics behind us. Once you chose an email providers, here’s how you ask people to join your list:
  1. You add a signup form to your site.
  2. You ask people to insert their email and subscribe.
  3. Subscribers are added to your list.
In between steps 2 & 3 users will need to confirm their email (more about that soon).

Once you have people on your list, you’ll generally be able to perform one of the following actions:

  1. Send a broadcast email to your entire list (or a segment of it).
  2. Automatically send email based on the user actions (i.e. after a purchase).
  3. Automatically send a sequence of emails to your subscribers (i.e. educational series).

Broadcast vs. Automation

Broadcasts are one time emails you send out to your audience; announcing a new product, wishing a happy new year, sharing latest posts, general updates...

Automation campaigns are emails automatically sent out to your audience based on specific triggers; after completing a purchase, after clicking a certain link inside your email, after abandoning the cart, and my personal favorite - a welcome series.

A welcome series allows you to send out a series of emails to each person who subscribers to your list, and this is huge.

Take my scenario as an example:

  • Last year I wrote a series of five well thought out and crafted marketing emails.
  • Each month an average of 350 people join my list.
  • The 5 marketing emails I wrote sometime last year, are sent out Automatically to each one of those 350 people, without me doing a thing. After the one time setup, I do nothing. It’s 100% set and forget.

A step back

I know I know, I’m moving too fast. Some of you may not even have a list set up yet, and I’m already talking about create a marketing series. My plan isn’t to scare you off, but rather to give you a glimpse of what’s possible once you get started. Email marketing isn’t like running a sprint, it’s more like a marathon. But once you get the snowball rolling it’s hard to stop it.

So if this all sounds interesting, I encourage you to plan time in your schedule and get back into the student chair. Their are tons of amazing teachers and lessons through which you can learn about best places to put your signup forms, what words to use in your email subject lines, how to increase open and clickthrough rates…

Start with Derek Halpern from Social Triggers to learn about the social aspect of email marketing, and then move on to Neil Patel for in-depth how-to posts. I’ll leave all the heavy duty work to them.

But as an author writing to fellow authors of the community, I’m here to share practical and actionable advice of what I found to be the best ways to build a highly targeted mailing list.

How to get target people to subscribe?

The hard way - write blog posts containing high quality content related to your targeted audience and add a signup form on your sidebar and at the end of the post. This method has serious potential, but it’s very hard for someone just getting started to build an audience from scratch. Let alone reaching a stage where your blog gets enough organic traffic to see significant growth to your list.

The Amigo way - create a freebie and ask people for their email in return. Super simple, highly effective.

Think about it - who doesn’t like getting things for free? We all do. Especially if they provide high value and would otherwise cost money. Would you mind giving your email in exchange for a high quality free item? Probably not.

Now remember this - that person who is interested in downloading your free item (say, a free after effects template), is someone who’s already:

  1. Familiar with Adobe After Effects.
  2. Knows exactly what a template is.
Which means they’re your target audience.

As a bonus, that person is getting familiar with your work and you as a brand.

What freebies should you giveaway?

Ask yourself who your target audience is, and what they need? If you build Wordpress themes, giving away a free Wordpress theme could be perfect. If you’re an audioJungle author, give away a music track. On codecanyon? Giveaway a free plugin.

The items you give away don’t have to be your absolute best work, but the better they are the more you increase the chance of someone willing to give you their email in return.

Actionable steps

  1. Create the freebie and upload it to your website
Since I am a Videohive author, I give away several After Effects Templates for free. So first step after creating the template is uploading it to the site. I recommend creating a Freebies section on your website, where you’ll host all your free items.

  1. Share the freebies
Depending on your field of interest, you need to find the best place to promote your freebie. As my freebies are video centered, YouTube provides the most appropriate platform. Other great platforms to share your freebies on are Dribble, Pinterest and Behance.

Notice how this one freebie has 56,942 views? Not all continued to download the freebie, but a very high percentage of them did and still do.

  1. Create a signup form
Next, create an opt in signup form where you’ll ask people to give you their email in return for the freebie. I currently use a free WP plugin called MailMunch because I found their forms have high conversion rates.

  1. Confirm the email

Now you need ask people to confirm their email. The reason you do this is to make sure the user didn’t just provide a fake email in hope of getting the freebie. Only those who go ahead and confirm their email, will get the freebie delivered to their inbox.

5. Give away the freebie

Finally, it’s time to give your newly added subscriber the freebie you promised them. Your subscriber is happy because he gets a high quality item, and you’re happy because you added another potential client to your mailing list. It’s a win-win situation.


A step further

For those of you who want to take things a step further, here’s something else you can do if you already have a blog that receives a good amount of organic traffic.

Create a short PDF summerizing your posts content, and then it away for free in return for an email. I recently used this method in my post How To Increase Organic Search Traffic By Up To 300% Using Google Trends which resulted in several hundred subscribers from that post alone.

Setting up this technique called the Content Upgrade is fairly straightforward, but you should definitely follow this step by step guide by Brian Dean from BackLinko.

Time to increase revenue.

Once you have a mailing list of highly targeted people, it’s time to turn all your hard work into revenue. As mentioned earlier, sending out a sequence of well crafted marketing emails is a super powerful technique and one you should definitely use. My automated series has been sent out to 16,278 as to date, and I hardly ever do any maintenance to it.

But when just getting started, you may want just send out broadcast email to your audience letting them know about new items you released to the market.

As an example, when I released an update for my app promo toolkit, I sent out an email to my entire list telling them about the update.

Since most of my audience isn’t specifically interested in app promo templates, the open rate was low. But most of the people who did open the email also clicked through to view the item. Nowadays my mailing list sends roughly 40-60 new potential buyers to Mobi each month (partly automatically and partly via broadcasts emails).

Valuable input from a fellow author

While doing research for this post, I got in touch with @Mad_Dog to get his input on the subject, as I’ve been on his mailing list ever since I purchased one of his items on Themeforest, and then signed up to his list.

Alex who’s the author at @Mad_Dog provided the following insights stats:

Q1. What are the most effective ways you found for collecting targeted emails and growing a healthy mailing list?

  • A. The most effective way to collect the emails is to create a freebie, in my case it was HTML templates and WordPress themes. If the visitors are interested in those types of the products then they are potential customers in the future :)
Q2. Could you share an example of an email campaign you have sent out to your list?
  • A. Here’s an example of our most recent campaign:

Q3. What are the average engagement rates (opens / link clicks) for your email campaigns.

  • A. Here are stats from the Mailchimp dashboard for a recent campaign:
Q4. What is the size of your list, and how long did it take you to achieve that amount?
  • A. I have more than 30k subscribers, but once per 6 months I have to delete invalid emails and the subscribers who did not open the emails. This way I keep the active email list. I spent 3 years to have such a list. If I did not delete inactive users, the list would be much bigger, I guess 50k+.
As you can see by from Alex’s answers, he also uses the freebie method to attract potential customers to his list. His 3 years of dedication and focus on the goal truly paid off, and he now has a huge database of potential buyers in his mailing list. Remember, building a health list is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes some time, but that time is well invested.

One problem I have with Envato

One of the key factors of email marketing is the ability to measure return on investment - compare your investment on a specific campaign vs. the amount of revenue gained by that campaign.

Measuring ROI with your own website is super simple. Send a campaign out to your audience, and, using Google Analytics, track how many people on your list completed a purchase and the exact revenue those people generated for you.

The issue I have with Envato is that Google Analytics is enabled only for Elite authors who’ve made over $75,000 in sales, meaning only authors who’ve already got the ball rolling. This is great for Elite authors, and I think they deserve each and every perk they receive from Envato.

But, my point is this - if you’re already an Elite author, it means you’re doing many things right, and the questions is if adding Google Analytics at this stage really provides value? I’m not sure it does.

On the other hand, authors like us can gain powerful insights as to which marketing strategies work, and which don’t. This is true also for advertising, where we’d want to track if a certain campaign was worth the money or not.

I brought this topic up in the forums one year ago as I was just a getting started with email marketing, but nothing has changed since. But who knows, maybe this post will make a difference :slight_smile:

Your challenge and closing words

My goal in this series was to help the community learn about email marketing as a superior alternative to social media.

My hope is that during the course of these past 3 posts, I’ve managed to teach you a few things you weren’t aware of before, and send you off to experiment with email marketing.

To be honest, in this post I only touch the tip of the iceberg as there’s so much more to cover. Perhaps one day I’ll share another series with more insights.

But if you found this series interesting, I highly encourage you to start building an email list TODAY. Then next year, around December 2016, come back here where it all started and share your experience and achievements with the community.

If you’re up for a challenge, during this year try to get at least 2,000 people to join your list.

And speaking of email… if you’d like to learn more about marketing, Google, animation, or even if you’re just interested in seeing what types of emails I send out to my subscribers, feel free to join my personal mailing list on my website, or my mailing list at Amigo.

I’ll even throw in a freebie or two for you :wink:

And last but not least, I want to send a huge Thank You to @DomHennequin who made this series possible and also took an active part in revising my posts and making sure I didn’t say too much nonsense!

See you around the forums,

Daniel, your Amigo.


This is a wonderful gold mine of information, Daniel! I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge of external promotion and marketing with us. Great article!

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Excellent article again @AmigoProductions

Personally I hate giving emails for freebies, but I found that I usually give them if the freebie is in high quality / premium like. So Let me try that again :slight_smile:


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Omg cant wait to read it!

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Thanks a lot @AurusAudio, that’s very kind of you! Super glad to hear you enjoyed the post, it’s been a real pleasure sharing this series with you guys! :smiley:

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Thanks @surjithctly!!

Exactly, if the content you’re getting is worthwhile then most chances are you wouldn’t mind giving your email in return. That’s why if you plan to give away a freebie yourself, make sure it’s of high value.

Great article, thanks for sharing! Now I’m totally pumped to give email marketing a go :sunglasses:


Awesome article :grin: all I need to do is save as this page :smiling_imp:

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Awesome @Stockwaves! I’d love to hear how it works out for you. Please feel free to ask if you have any questions down the road.

Lol @leafcolor, let me know if you need any help with that :wink:

@AmigoProductions Dont worry about google analytics. I was waiting it so much to finally track my convertions, but Envato cut off all the functional. So all info youll get is no more than you have right now in your analytics tab on the item.

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Hey @YashkovskiyMD thanks for your comment. That’s a shame, I wasn’t aware of that. May I ask what features of Google analytics you do get once you become Elite?

@amigoproductions did you put everything together by your self.

@RedSubject Not sure I understand what you mean? Are you asking if I wrote this post myself? If that’s the questions then yes :wink:

@AmigoProductions Once again, after reading your second and third article… thanks A LOT. Your posts are full of very valuable information. I never read such a summary of what needs to be done, with numbers. Nowhere. This is like… a christmas gift :slight_smile:

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@MrMattMusic Thank you for your very kind words! Sharing this series has been extremely fun, and comments like your made the entire experience so much more satisfying, so thanks again! :smiley::relaxed:

Awesome!, great article about creating a mailing list :slightly_smiling:

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Great to see the latest post! Gotta look into this. :slightly_smiling:
I wonder if a deviant art page works just as well as a blog/website? And maybe adding a link to sign up to the newsletter on all item pages on both deviant art and envato?

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Hi Daniel!

Thanks for the post and thanks for mentioning my plugin. While I have to agree MyMail has a one time fee I should mention that delivery mails is not always free. You can send via your host but if you are on a shared IP it’s mostly likely the IP is already blacklisted.

I always recomend to use a dedciate ESP to get your mails out. They are not always free but very cheap and reliable.

MyMail has an SMTP API so you can use other services as well.

If someone has a question don’t hesitate to ask :slightly_smiling:

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Thanks Amigo ! This is very instructive.

A question, have you ever tried Adwords or Facebook ads ?
Do you have some feedback on that kind of advertising, is it worth it ?

For info I did that already for my Wedding Gallery “Lantern Night” with a CTR of 2.60%
and for “Volumax” with a CTR of almost 3%

But it’s expensive and very difficult (maybe impossible) to know if I sold more doing that…